Posts Tagged clutter

Decluttering Your Home, Room By Room

Decluttering your home can be a daunting task, it doesn’t matter if you’re a hoarder or someone who wants to live a simple life, having less clutter makes your life less stressful. The science is in and study after study has shown that a messy house leads to higher levels of cortisol, reduces your chances for promotions and puts a strain on family life or marriage. Who has time for that?

how to decluter your house room by room graphic

I thought I’d share some tips to make decluttering your home easier by breaking down some easy steps to decluttering your home by room.

Organizing Your Messy Kitchen

The kitchen is one of those places that seem to attract a lot of junk. It’s the place we have meals, spend time with family and holds a lot of kitchen gadgets that can pile up. All this means you have a lot of opportunities to clean and organize your kitchen to be clutter free.

Decluttering your kitchen the easy way

The easiest place to start is with expired food. Go through your pantry and fridge to find items that are past their expiration date. Toss them.

Next, go to your food storage containers, pull them all out and match each lid to each bottom. Inevitably you’ll find several pieces that don’t have matching parts. Get rid of anything that doesn’t have a match and then take a step back to evaluate what you do have, do you need all of them? I find that I usually only need a few large containers and then a few medium or small containers. When in doubt, keep the ones you like the best, if you don’t like one or it’s looking tired, toss it too!

Finally look at kitchen gadgets, pots, pans, and tools that you haven’t used in a long time. Take them all and put them in a box. If you need one of those items over the next few months, remove it from the box, use it, then find a place for it on your shelf. No cheating! Only take those items out if you’re using them. After a few months, you’ll have a box of things you don’t use, so donate them.

Make Your Living Room Clutter Free

The living room is another one of those places that just seem to get messy really fast. Kids playing with their toys added to the mix make it even harder. Start by getting rid of any old newspapers, magazine, etc. We tell ourselves that we are going to read them, but for the sake of your sanity, toss everything except for the latest issue.

how to declutter your living room

If you have kids, think about thinning out older toys that they don’t play with. Stem the flow by instituting a rule of one toy in, one toy out. Have your kids choose what stays and what goes, letting them make the choice lets them value both what they keep and what is new.

Finally, have a donation box that’s very public in your home and lead by example showing your kids what you’re donating and let them come to the process on their own. If you make it obvious that you’re donating things, they’ll start asking questions and then joining in, building a genuine habit of considering how they can help others.

Organizing Your Home Office Desk

how to declutter your home office and desk

Your office is a magnet for paper clutter. Where most people go wrong is not having a plan for papers to exit, they just bring paper in and it accumulates.
If you haven’t already, transition to paperless billing so you can stop the paper from coming into your office in the first place. Then understand what you need to keep and what you can toss. The IRS officially states that a scanned copy of a receipt is just as valid as a paper copy, so have a system to take any papers you do collect to be scanned and then shredded.

How Long To Keep Papers & Receipts?

3 months:

  • Receipts (non-deducted)
  • ATM deposits and withdrawals
  • Bank statements

3 years:

  • Checkbooks
  • Pay stubs
  • Mortgage statement
  • Car loan statements
  • Insurance records (expired)
  • Charitable contributions
  • All income documentation (business etc.)
  • Receipts used in deductions

7+ years

  • All tax filings and documents
  • W2’s and 1099’s
  • Canceled checks
  • Mileage records
  • Real-estate tax forms

Forever – paper form:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Passport
  • Auto titles
  • Marriage/divorce papers
  • Investment statements
  • Major purchases/home improvements for insurance
  • Wills Current insurance policies
  • Medical records
  • Retirement documents
  • Property titles and deeds
  • Contracts

Now that you know what needs to stay and what can go, set up a process to scan and file the documents you need to keep. Since you have as many of your things set up in paperless bills, this will be a lot less and most of the mail you’ll get is junk mail, which would be tossed right away.

To process your documents, have a good scanner that has a multi-page feed. Brother has a good one for about $50 or you can get a standalone document scanner for around $400. Have two boxes on your desk or in your office: one to scan and then one for scanned documents. Set a schedule to scan your documents once a week and once a month shred the documents in your done box.

Declutter Bathroom Countertops

The bathroom is pretty straightforward for men, little more complicated for women. My best advice is only to keep what you use every day and then allow for a few select things that are less frequently used items. Items you use every day should have a place in the shower, on your countertop or in the top drawers of your vanity. Things that you don’t use as often should be organized into a container and placed in the cabinet itself.

how to declutter your cabinets and counters in your bathroom

Makeup is one of those things that a lot of women collect because they like variety in their look, it’s expensive so it’s hard to toss and they’ll use it “someday”. The best advice I’ve seen is to only keep what you really love. If makeup doesn’t play well with your skin, the tone isn’t quite right, or you don’t find yourself reaching for it most days, toss it. If it hasn’t been used in the page 90 days and you don’t know for sure you’re going to use in the next 90 days, toss it.

Shampoo, conditioners, and soaps are something that seems to collect in the shower. Find options that work well for you and then toss everything else. For me I only keep one shampoo, one face wash and one body wash in the shower ever.

Hacks To Organize A Messy Bedroom

Your nightstand is the official junk drawer of the bedroom. It is a landing pad for a lot of things and they pile up fast. First go through and toss anything that isn’t needed, old or out of date. If you keep a book there, only keep one book that you’re reading and put the rest on a shelf, finally decide what is allowed to stay there and find new homes for the rest.

how to declutter your bedroom quickly

Most people who tend to toss clothes on the floor is a result of not having a proper place to put them or the placement of your hamper isn’t working for you. Get realistic about how you live your life and reinforce the habit. For me, I noticed that I didn’t put my clothes in the hamper because it was still full from when I folded laundry into it. It was full with clean laundry that I just pulled from.

That lead me to have two baskets for laundry and then later I built the habit to always unload the basket into my dresser every time I brought in my freshly cleaned laundry.

How To Downsize Your Wardrobe

This is hard for many people, but what few realize is that people only wear about 20% of their wardrobe. This was a big eye opener for me so I decided to only keep pieces of clothing that I really loved. If it didn’t fit me perfectly, if it hung kind of weird, if it was a pair of jeans that I used to fit in or something that didn’t match with anything else, I tossed it.

Decluttering your clothes and wardrobe simple with a capsule wardrobe

Building a capsule wardrobe is a great place to start for many people because you can have a lot of options for outfits while still keeping it pretty limited.
For me, I’ve gone as far as wearing a uniform. I have one type of shirt (in a single color) and one type of jeans and one type of shorts. I have all matching socks so I don’t have to pair them. This means I don’t ever have to think about, just grab what is on top and go.

How To Organize A Messy Garage

The garage is one of the hardest places because its such a dumping ground for so many things. In America, one in four people can’t park in their garage because it’s filled with so much stuff. The tough part about garages is that most of what is in there often falls into a few categories: things you have for something you intend to do, items from a deceased relative that has a lot of emotion wrapped up in it, items that represent something want to do more of (sports, exercise, etc) and things that don’t have a place.

How to clean up a messy garage with out a lot of hassle

All these things can be a challenge and you don’t just have to do the work to discard or organize them, you sometimes have to do the emotional work too. Add to that the sheer volume that a garage can hold and you have a lot of work ahead of you.

The temptation here is to organize it all, but that’s the exact wrong approach, you want to discard first, then you can organize. People often confuse organizing things into bins or boxes on a shelf as decluttering, but you haven’t actually fixed the problem, you only made the ugly truth look a little neater.

So get honest with yourself, start by tossing anything that is broken or doesn’t work, follow that with things you haven’t used in over a year or two. If we are honest about how likely we are actually going to use something, we can make real progress.

So those are some tips and tricks to declutter all the rooms in your house.

Your Turn!

  • What is the hardest room for you to declutter?
  • What tricks do you know of?

Decluttering your house room by room graphic

Clutter And Stress: Your Clutter is Stressing You Out

Whenever I’m in a room full of clutter, I start to feel my anxiety rise. Clutter has been tightly correlated to stress, and your clutter may be stressing you out even more than you think. This is five ways that clutter stresses you out.

Clutter and Stress

1. Clutter is Distracting

No wonder I can never get work done with a cluttered desk or office – when you can constantly see other things (aka clutter) that needs to get put away, faxed off, filed, etc, it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand. Most people take breaks from staring at the computer, and if those breaks are filled with looking around at the clutter in your office, it could be greatly distracting you from what you’re meant to be doing.

2. Clutter Inhibits Creativity and Productivity

Being constantly surrounded by clutter can stop your creativity (& productivity) in it’s tracks. Personally, I feel super inspired and creative when I’m in a clean and tidy environment, and I have never been able to feel productive when I’m in a messy, cluttered room or space. I’ve always been one of those people that clean their room before doing any work.

3. Clutter Creates Feelings of Guilt

When you’re surrounded by clutter, it’s easy to think of what you should have done with it by now. It should have been donated, it should have been thrown away, it should be organized.

I experienced this firsthand when I went to visit my parents recently, and in my old room was clutter that I’d totally forgot about. It was just a few old clothes, a Vitamix, and some shoes, but I made sure that I got rid of it before I left. Arriving there and seeing the clutter made me feel so guilty, but getting rid of it made me feel so much better.

4. Clutter Makes Us Anxious

Imagine that you are standing in a field on a sunny day. The grass is cut short and you can’t see anything for miles. How relaxing is that?!

Now imagine you’re in a room, surrounded by stuff. The bookshelves are full, there are boxes on the floor, even the table and chairs are piled high with stuff. Did that feeling of being relaxed go away?

Clutter can unconsciously cause massive amounts of stress.

Clutter and Stress

5. Clutter Makes it Difficult To Relax, Physically and Mentally

I love having time to myself, to read, relax, light a candle, whatever. But it’s super difficult to relax when I’m surrounded by clutter. In fact, sometimes it feels downright impossible. Clutter inhibits our ability to relax because it’s hard to see all of the stuff that needs to get done and ignore it.

Clutter can have a huge impact on stress levels, consciously or unconsciously. The good news is that decluttering can lead you to a more stress free, creative, and productive life.

Your Turn!

  • How has clutter affected your stress levels?

The Connection Between Clutter and Mental Health

Before minimalism, I was constantly surrounded by clutter. Laundry, trinkets and souvenirs, mail – I was swimming in it. I didn’t notice the impact it had on my mental clarity until I cleared out this clutter. When I was living in this constant state of chaos, my mind was always jumping around from one idea to the next. My to-do list seemed endless. I was always distracted, and hardly ever productive.

Clutter and Mental Health

Once I cleared out the chaos and simplified my surroundings, my mind became decluttered as well. It was an unexpected side effect of minimalism, but a welcome one. I felt that I had the time and clarity to finally think clearly. My to-do list became shorter, not only because I didn’t have a constant overflow of laundry, but also because I became more intentional. I gained clarity in my priorities and what I wanted from my days, weeks, and months. I found my passions and made some serious goals (and then I achieved them).

When the clutter was gone, I noticed a bunch of little changes that added a lot of value to my life. I didn’t want to spend my weekends shopping anymore – I became happy with the way that my home looked. I wanted to keep it clutter free, which ended up saving me tons of money on home furnishings.

Clutter and Mental HealthPreviously, I’d been in a consistent pursuit of home perfection. I wanted my home to be clean, clear, and look like it had been decorated by an interior designer. When I cleared the mess, I realized that I loved the way my home looked when it was clutter free. It was easier to manage, and I no longer felt like I needed to find the perfect throw pillow to attain home perfection.

Another change I noticed quickly was my wanting to use my new surroundings to my best capabilities. I finally had a room that had good energy and made me want to keep it tidy. I started making my bed every day and putting my dirty laundry in the laundry basket instead of on the floor. By doing these little tasks, I was able to save bits of time that all added up to a lot of time. When I got rid of all of my excess clothes, I was able to spend my weekends hiking around Northern California instead of doing 10 loads of laundry (I’m still not sure how I was able to make that much laundry in a week, with only 2 people in my household).

I noticed that I had more energy and drive after clearing out my house. I didn’t feel weighed down anymore (though I hadn’t even realized how weighed down I felt until I got rid of the stuff). I felt light, free, and motivated.

I never expected minimalism to give me so many benefits. These little changes came from just clearing the clutter in my surroundings – I’ve experienced even more benefits from living a fully minimalist lifestyle.

Your Turn!

  • Do you live clutter-free?
  • If so, how has it changed your life?

 

True Life Confessions – I have a junk drawer!

Oh the shame!  I live in a tiny house and I have a junk drawer!

I shot this video confessing my use of a junk drawer, but you might have something to learn as I tell you how I apply a little philosophy of use for my drawer.  Check it out below:

tiny house no clutter

Your Turn!

  • How do you prevent clutter in your home?

The Purpose Of Stuff And The Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself

Recently I came across a post about “The purpose of stuff” and I thought it was a really great way of thinking about the items in our lives.  To summarize, we have all this stuff in our lives and they largely fall into four distinct purposes: Functional, Aesthetic, Nostalgic, and Dream Placeholders.

posessions and clutter tiny house

 

I liked this line of thought and realized that this frame work is useful, but it contains a lot of pitfalls.  For example: Functional.  There are a lot of things that could be deemed functional in our lives. Kitchen gadgets are the first thing that comes to mind.

Many of us have drawers stuffed with gadgets that will peel garlic, steam broccoli and core an apple.  The kitchen gadget industry has come up with a solution for every possible problem.  The truth is, much of these purpose built items don’t make us better cooks and most of these things serve an outlier need.  How often do you actually core apples?

So I wanted to offer up some questions that can help you navigate around the pitfalls of each of these.

Functional:

There are things that we simply need to get through our daily lives.  We need a bed to sleep on, a fridge to keep food in, a towel to dry our hands and so on.  Much of what is in my tiny house has a very strong functional purpose, but it’s easy to say we NEED something.  What most people fail to do is examine motivations and take a step back and understand the motivations.

compact-can-openerA perfect example for me was: do I need a washer and dryer?  I was convinced I did, but I didn’t know how I was going to fit it in my house.  It was then I took a step back and said “I hate folding clothes, why would I want to have a thing in my house that caused me to do things I hate doing?”

Now it would be easy to say, well everyone wears clothes, clothes get dirty, you need to wash them, therefore, you need a washer.  That is a pretty logical argument, it’s how most houses are built, and how it’s been done for a long time.  But I was willing to ask myself, what if I didn’t have a washer/dryer?  So I said, well maybe there is someone that I could instead pay to do my laundry in lieu of buying an expensive compact washer/dryer.  Low and behold I found a company that will come to my house, take my laundry, wash/dry/fold, then bring it back to me… for $15!

Ask yourself these questions around functional items:

  • What assumptions am I making about this item and the “need” it fills?
  • What are other ways I could achieve this same end result?
  • Is there something I could use instead that does this in a smaller form or is multi-purpose
  • How often do I actually do this function?
  • What if I didn’t have this thing?  What would the impact be?

Aesthetics

There is a great quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  Aesthetics is very important in a small space and for minimalists, we have very little so we must be intentional with all our decisions.  When it comes to minimalists choosing beautiful things for our lives, we need to be discerning.  This is the case where less is more, not out of some dogmatic adherence, but by have a few beautiful things we bring focus and honor to their purpose: enrichment through beauty.

have-nothing-that-is-not-useful-and-beautifulThe trouble with aesthetic items we can have too many of them, which leads us to have a cluttered feel.  Focus on a few select things that allows you to enjoy them without being distracted by other things.  If you find yourself not appreciating it’s value each day, it might be a sign it needs to go.

Ask yourself these questions around aesthetic items:

  • Where will this item have a home, a spot, in my house?
  • How do you want your space or home to feel?  How does this item help you achieve that goal?
  • Is there enough space to draw your focus on this item each day?
  • What items will distract you from enjoyment of this item?

Nostalgic

This is the most difficult of them all, because we are human beings and as such, we are inherently laden with flaws and complications.  Nostalgia is a powerful force of the human experience and its valuable, healthy and an important part of life.  There are times when it can weigh us down.

memories-posessionsIf you ever have watched a show of Hoarders, you hear over and over again how people don’t want to throw something away because it reminds them of their late spouse, passed away family member or some other part of their past.  While hoarding is an unhealthy expression of this need to connect with the past, we can all relate to these feelings.

I spent a significant amount of time sifting through my memory boxes and was able to organize into a few albums and boxes.  I then placed the whole thing into a large waterproof container for safe keeping.  I think what I really need to do is get better is spending a little more time enjoying these memories.

Ask yourself these questions around nostalgic items:

  • Is it possible to keep this memory from some other prompt?
  • Is this a healthy memory to keep coming back to?
  • Would a picture of the item suffice?

Dream Placeholders

I have a soft spot for nostalgic items, but when it comes to items that are place holders for our dreams, hope and even fantasies, I draw a pretty hard line.  Dream placeholders are things that nod to a life we wish to live. They are things that we want in our lives, but we don’t have them, so we instead have things that remind us of that.  Dream placeholders are toxic. Period.

We should have goals. The difference between goals and dreams is that we work towards goals. We remind ourselves that we don’t have the dream but enjoy thinking about it.

born to liveThis is the difference between someone saying they hate their job and going home only to do it all over again, versus a person that works 9 to 5, only to come home and work on their side hustle until midnight.  It is the difference between people who say they want to live in a tiny house and the people who say I’m going to do it and are building their dream home weeks later.

Dream placeholders can be toxic.  Living this lifestyle is one of purpose, of intention and of pursuit of your best life.  If you can’t actively pursue something, then it’s best to come to terms that it will not happen and move on.

Ask yourself these questions about Dream Placeholders:

  • What have you done in the last week to achieve this dream?
  • Why haven’t you achieved this already and are you creating excuses?
  • Does this item serve a function in getting you closer to your goals?
  • Should I lay this dream to rest and move on?

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you make sure the things in your life are meant to be there?
  • What tricks do you use to keep down clutter?